MINNEAPOLIS — The first World Series game played indoors came to pass Saturday night at the Metrodome, and the St. Louis Cardinals provided the house whine after a 10-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Cardinal outfielders had problems all night picking up the flight of high fly balls. The most blatant Cardinal episode came in the fourth inning when Kent Hrbek's routine fly ball bounced in front of center fielder Willie McGee, who seemingly had no clue as to the whereabouts of the ball.
"This place is really tough," McGee said. "If you take your eye off the ball for just a second, you lose it for good. We had problems (communicating) in the outfield because of (the noise). But if you can't hear, you just use your best judgment."
McGee wasn't the only Cardinal who complained about the roof and the lights.
"It's those lights," shortstop Ozzie Smith said. "Not the bright ones, those orange lights (that outline the inside of the roof). Once it gets up there, the ball is almost the same color as the light reflecting off the roof."
Vince Coleman, the Cardinals' left fielder, said he felt "helpless" on most high fly balls.
"A few times, I lost the ball entirely," Coleman said, shaking his head. "When the ball would come in sight, it would be 20 feet from the ground. What can you do then?"
Smith said there is not much the Cardinals can do to adapt themselves to the conditions in such a short series.
"It's tough if you're only here for one or two games," Smith said. "You really got to play here a while, maybe a whole season, before you learn how to handle it. You can't do it just visiting."
Added Coleman: "I think the Twins have problems with the roof sometimes, too. (Kirby) Puckett (Minnesota's center fielder) told me he still isn't used to it."
Joe Magrane, the Cardinal pitcher and funny man, on the lighting at the Metrodome:
"It looks like the Guthrie Theatre (in Minneapolis). It looks like a thespian did it."
All told, this was not a good day for the Cardinals. The Metrodome even was threatening to their wives sitting behind home plate. A foul ball that ricocheted off a concrete railing hit the wife of utility infielder Rod Booker in the head.
She was not seriously hurt.
Bert Blyleven, starting pitcher for the Twins tonight in Game 2, is the American League leader in home runs allowed. But he isn't worried about giving up home runs to the Cardinals, playing without sluggers Jack Clark and Terry Pendleton.
"The reason I give up a lot of home runs is that I'm always around the plate," Blyleven said Saturday. "What hurt me last season was that I was giving up a lot of two- and three-run home runs. I think of the 46 home runs I gave up this season, about 30 or so were solo shots. So, in the last two seasons, I've given up something like 90 home runs and still won more than 30 games."
By the same token. Blyleven isn't concerned about the Cardinals' vaunted running game, which was harnessed by the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series.
"I don't worry about it and I'm not going to change the way I pitch," Blyleven said. "They've still got to get a hit to get on first. If they do get on first base and even if Vince Coleman steals some bases, he's still got to have somebody get a hit to score him."
There is a feeling among Cardinal players, second baseman Tommy Herr said, that they will be consciously seeking atonement for losing the 1985 World Series to the Kansas City Royals.
"Obviously, the way we lost in '85 was a hard pill to swallow," Herr said. "We had a 3-1 lead and then led in the ninth inning of Game 6 and coughed that up. "I think we're approaching this Series in a more businesslike manner. In that (1985) Series, we were heavily favored, even without Vince, and we learned a lesson from that."
Herr said the loss of Clark for the World Series did not demoralize the Cardinals. Clark, after all, had made only one pinch-hit appearance in Game 3 of the playoffs, and the Cardinals still managed to beat the Giants in seven games.
"The fact Jack's not playing doesn't diminish his leadership role," Herr said. "Jack's presence in the dugout is important. Other guys can feed off that. He's got a mean streak in him, and that rubs off. We need that competitiveness."
Making a buck off the World Series is, of course, part of the American way, and outside the Metrodome before Game 1, the self-employed vendors were working all the angles.
One guy was hawking stainless steel Metrodome whistles, the kind made famous by Patti Blyleven and the rest of the Twins' wives during the American League playoffs. Just in case the Dome needed some more noise.
On another street corner, you could buy Sweep-the-Cards whisk brooms, which were handed out with a smile and the exhortation, "SWEEP! SWEEP!" Added one saleswoman: "Don't forget to cheer loud."